“So for us to be part of this project was an amazing honour because essentially we are researching the heritage of the children who came here but not only the children of course, their families as well in the past, the present and the future. We have been joined by volunteers, we have been joined by Survivors and of course they all had lives before they came here and incredible stories that we have been able to hear.
We have learnt more through the archaeology about their time in Windermere and I guess just how instrumental that was in their rehabilitation and their lives moving forward, and then we have seen their sons, their daughters, their grandchildren, even great grandchildren in some cases coming here to dig with us.
So I think for us this project has been about hope, it’s been about the hope that the children had when they came here and the hope it created for the future really and to that legacy that they also left behind here in Britain.
This site has obviously a tangible link to the Holocaust and that’s obviously exceptionally rare for the U.K. so it’s an invaluable place to learn about the Holocaust and Britain’s relationship to it.
But because of the fact that the boys and girls who came here had experienced many camps all over Europe, learning about the history of Calgarth and learning about the history of those children is also a way into the terrible stories of atrocities that happened elsewhere in Europe.
It shows that Britain had this connection to what was going on. We were removed in many ways, but through the people and the connections, and the camps that they visited and then the camps that they were housed in, and then they came to Calgarth – they brought with them that legacy and those stories as well.
There are so many valuable lessons we can learn about the story of the children who came here. This is a really positive site in that it’s a positive story of migration; the local community welcomed the children and they still speak of that today. You know even in their nineties they speak that this was an amazing place where they were welcomed. And that’s something I think the Lake District and Britain should be really proud of.
And it sets an example for the way that we should welcome refugees into society today, not least of all because of the rise of anti semitism, the rise of hate crime – and coming here for us and for the rest of the volunteers, but anybody that is about the Calgarth story. Hopefully they will understand that people who came here, that they were people just like us, with families and lives and sometimes I think with the Holocaust and also with refugees in general it’s very easy to think about numbers and not names, about movement of people and about very negative aspects that people conjure up in their minds.
But we really need to remember that these are people who have lost their homes – their families in many cases – and what happened here in the Lake District was a really positive story of how those who were all welcomed into society and how we should keep doing that in the future.”
Caroline Stury Colls – August 2019.